Whole Blood Donations
For a whole blood donation, about one pint of blood is collected and separated into its three components: plasma, platelets and red blood cells.
The value of a whole blood donation is that you help save three lives! Plasma is effective in treating burn or shock patients. Platelets can help patients with leukemia and other cancers. Red blood cells are often necessary to treat surgery patients, babies born prematurely and trauma victims.
The entire donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes just under one hour, with the actual donation taking five to 10 minutes. You may donate whole blood every 56 days.
Automated donations allow you to selectively donate the blood components that are needed most, with the remaining blood returned to you. You can donate double red cells, platelets or plasma with an automated donation. Depending on your blood type, the collections staff can tell you what donation type is most needed at the time of your donation.
Double Red Cells
A double red cell donation allows you to give twice the amount of red cells given in a whole blood donation. Red blood cells are the most-used blood component for surgery, trauma and treatment of blood disorders.
You may donate double red cells once every 112 days. There are special requirements for donating double red cells. If you are interested in making this type of donation, please talk to the collections staff to determine whether you are eligible.
Platelets are a component of your blood that help control bleeding, and are often used to help patients with cancer. An automated platelet donation is equal to platelets derived from six whole blood donations. Since platelets only have a shelf life of five days, donors are needed continuously.
If you donate platelets, you may donate every seven days, up to 24 times per year. There is a three-day deferral period after taking aspirin to donate platelets.
Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, transports red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (which control bleeding, fight infection and provide nutrients). Burn and trauma patients frequently are given plasma to replace fluid loss. Someone who receives many red cell transfusions may require plasma as well to maintain blood clotting. Plasma is also transfused to some patients with bleeding or clotting disorders.
After donating plasma, you may give plasma again after 28 days, whole blood after one month or platelets after 72 hours.
Source Plasma Donations
In addition to donating red blood cells, platelets or plasma that can be directly transfused to patients, some donors may give plasma that will be used to make lifesaving medicines for patients battling more than 80 different diseases. This new donation type is called source plasma.
Many patients do not require blood transfusions, but need lifesaving therapies – called therapeutic proteins – that can only be made with donated plasma. These patients include people with serious, and often rare, medical conditions, such as immune system deficiency, septic shock or hemophilia.
Just as there is no substitute for blood, no generic or chemical substitute exists for therapeutic proteins. The only way to create this type of medication is through plasma donations. The Blood Center has partnered with a nonprofit organization that creates therapeutic proteins from source plasma given by volunteer donors, to help patients in the U.S. and internationally.
Source plasma donation has slightly different donor eligibility requirements than other donation types. Learn more.
Autologous and Directed Donations
Autologous blood transfusion is a procedure in which you are transfused with blood that you have donated only for yourself.
Directed blood transfusion is a procedure in which the patient is transfused with blood specifically donated for the patient by a friend or family member, with a doctor's orders.
To become an autologous or directed blood donor, a written order must be faxed to The Blood Center's Autologous and Directed Program at (713) 791-6607. Your physician can obtain a Request for Autologous/Directed Donation form by calling (713) 791-6608 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or download it here. It is the responsibility of the donor to make sure the written order is sent to The Blood Center by the physician.
Autologous and directed donations can be made at any Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center facility. You must call the location to schedule an appointment for your donation. Autologous blood donations are not accepted at mobile blood drives. An additional fee is charged for each pint drawn to cover extra processing and administrative costs. These fees are charged to the hospital and will be included in your hospital bill.
Autologous donors must have a hematocrit level of at least 38 percent. The deferral period for donors with low hematocrit is 30 days to give donors ample time to increase their hematocrit levels by regularly eating iron-rich foods and incorporating an iron supplement into their routines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I be charged for direct donations if the donors are not compatible?
No, if your donors are not compatible there is no charge. But if we are not provided with the patient's blood type, then we send every donation to the hospital. After the hospital cross-match is done and it is concluded that the donation is incompatible, then there is only the direct fee of $26.
Why does my blood expire sooner if I am a blood relative?
If you are a blood relative, your donation will have to be irradiated to avoid graft versus host disease. In this instance, the 42-day expiration is reduced to 28 days.
Why do I have to pay for my own blood?
The charges assessed with an autologous donation are for testing and processing, and service fees.
Why do I need doctor's orders before donating autologous or direct units?
We must have a doctor's request in order to make sure we have all the proper information for the patient and to make sure the doctor has authorized the patient to give an autologous donation.
If I'm having surgery out of town, can I donate here and have it shipped? And at what cost?
Yes, you may donate with a physician's request at any Neighborhood Donor Center. But all units must be prepaid before any donations are made. This fee varies depending on how many units your physician wants. It includes testing and processing fees, autologous and/or directed fees, and shipping and handling.
Why can't I know the names of or other information about my direct donors?
All information is kept strictly confidential in accordance with HIPAA regulations.
If I don't use my autologous donation, why can't it be released for someone else?
Autologous donations are not drawn under the same criteria as a regular whole blood unit. Some physicians will allow autologous donors to donate who otherwise would not qualify to donate for the general public. Therefore, these units cannot be released for someone else.